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respecting baptism will decide the controversy. The neglect of circumcision, which could proceed from nothing but presumptuous impiety, incurred the sentence of excision: that soul shall be cut off from the people. Whatever may be meant beside by that commination, it will not be doubted that it included the entire forfeiture of the advantages of that peculiar covenant which God was pleased to establish with the Israelitish people: and the exclusion from the paschal feast, as well as from the other sacrifices, was the necessary appendage of that forfeiture.
The most violent Baptist will not presume to insinuate that the neglect of baptism from a misconception of its nature is exposed to a similar penalty. It is evident from the history of the Old Testament, that an Israelite became disqualified for sharing in whatever privileges distinguished that nation only in consequence of such a species of criminality as cut him off from the covenant. An interest in that covenant (the particular nature of which it is not necessary to insist upon) and a free access to all the privileges and institutions of the Jewish people were inseparable, so that nothing would have appeared to an ancient Jew more absurd than to disunite the covenant itself from the federal rites by which it was ratified and confirmed. The invention of this ingenious paradox belongs exclusively to the abetters of strict communion, who in the same breath affirm that Pedobaptists are entitled to all the blessings of the new and everlasting covenant, and forbidden to commemorate it; and scruple not to assert, that though interested as much as themselves in the great sacrifice, it would be presumption in them to approach the sacred symbols, which are appointed for no other purpose but to hold it forth. It is certainly with a very ill grace that the champions of such monstrous and unparalleled positions ridicule their opponents for inventing a new and eccentric theology."
Before I dismiss this head I must remark, that in insisting upon the prior claim which baptism possesses to the attention of a Christian convert, the advocates of strict communion triumph without an oppoWe know of none who contend for the propriety of inverting the natural order of the Christian sacraments where they can both be attended to, that is, when the nature of each is clearly understood and confessed. To administer them under any other circumstance, it will be acknowledged, is impracticable. We administer baptism, let it be remembered, in every instance in which our opponents will allow it ought to be administered; and the only difference is, that we have fellowship in another ordinance with those members of the body of Christ whom they reject. Let it once be demonstrated that the obligation of commemorating the Saviour's death is not sufficiently supported by his
"The last century," says Mr. Booth, page 36, "was the grand era of improvement, of prodigious improvement, in light and liberty in light, as well diving as philosophical, by the labours of a Bacon, a Boyle, and a Newton; in pretended theological knowledge by those of a Jesse or a Bunyan. Did the former, by deep researches into the system of nature, surprise and instruct the world by discoveries of which mankind had never before conceived? The latter, penetrating into the gospel system, amused mankind by casting new light on the positive institutions of Jesus Christ, and by placing baptism among things of little importance in the Christian religion, of which no ancient theologian ever dreamed-none, we have reason to think, that ever loved the Lord Redeemer." A little after he adds, "The practical claim of dispensing power by Jesse and Bunyan made way for the inglorious liberty of treating positive institutions in the house of God just as professors please."
express injunction, but derives its force and validity from its inseparable connexion with a preceding sacrament, and we are prepared to abandon our practice, as a presumptuous innovation on the laws of Christ. Till then, we shall not be much moved by the charge of claiming a dispensing power, with which we are frequently accused,a power which I presume no Protestant ever dreamed of usurping, and the assumption of which implies such impiety as ought to render a Christian reluctant to urge such a charge.
To remind us of "the destruction of Nadab and Abihu by fire from heaven, the breach that was made upon Uzzah, the stigma fixed and the curses denounced upon Jerusalem, together with the fall and ruin of all mankind by our first father's disobedience to a positive command," is more calculated to inflame the passions than to elicit truth, or conduct the controversy to a satisfactory issue. When the sole inquiry is, what is the law of Christ, and we are fully persuaded that our interpretation of it is more natural and reasonable than that of our opponents, it is not a little absurd to charge us with assuming a claim of dispensing with its authority. We know that he commanded his followers to be baptized; we know also that he commanded them to show forth his death till he came : but where shall we look for a tittle of his law which forbids such as sincerely though erroneously believe themselves to have complied with the first to attend to the last of these injunctions? Where is the scriptural authority for resting the obligation of the Eucharist, not on the precept that enjoins it, but on the previous reception of baptism? As the Scripture is totally silent on this point, we are not disposed to accept the officious assistance of our brethren in supplying its deficiency; and beg permission to remind them, that to add to the Word of God is equally criminal with taking away from it.
Do we neglect the administration of that rite to any class of persons whose state of mind is such as would render it acceptable to God? Do we neglect to illustrate and enforce it in our public ministrations? Are we accustomed to insinuate that serious inquiry into the mind of Christ on this subject is of little or no importance? Are we found to decline its administration in any case whatever in which our accusers would not equally decline it? Nothing of this can be alleged. Do they argue from the language of the original institute, from the examples of Scripture, and the precedent of the early ages, that it is the duty of believers, without exception, to be immersed in the name of Jesus? So do we. Are they disposed to look upon such as have neglected, whether from inattention or prejudice, to perform this duty, as mistaken Christians? We also consider them in the same light. In what respect, then, are we guilty of dispensing with divine laws? Merely because we are incapable of perceiving that an involuntary mistake on this subject disqualifies for Christian communion. But how extremely unjust to load us on that account with the charge of assuming a dispensing power, when the only ground on which we maintain our opinion, whether true or false, is our conviction that it is founded on a legitimate interpretation of the oracles of God. The dispute is not concerning
their authority, but their meaning; and we dispense with baptism in no other sense than that of denying it to be in all cases essential to communion; in which, whether we are mistaken or not, is a point open to controversy; but to be guilty, first of a misnomer in defining our sentiments, and afterward to convert an odious and erroneous appellation into an argument, is the height of injustice.
With what propriety our practice is compared to that of the Church of Rome, in confining the communion to one kind, the intelligent reader will be at no loss to perceive. In that, as in various other instances, that church, in order to raise the dignity of the priesthood, assumes a power of mutilating a divine ordinance. We are chargeable with no mutilation, nor presume in the smallest particular to innovate in the celebration of either sacrament; we merely refuse to acknowledge that dependence, one upon the other, on which the confidence of our opponents is so ill sustained by the silence of Scripture.
We will close this part of the discussion by remarking, that there is a happy equivocation in the word dispense, which has contributed not a little to its introduction into the present controversy. It may either mean that we do not insist upon baptism as an indispensable condition of communion, in which sense the charge is true, but nothing to the purpose, since it is a mere statement, in other words, of our actual practice; or it may intend that we knowingly and deliberately deviate from the injunctions of Scripture,-a serious accusation, which requires not to be asserted, but proved.
Our supposed Opposition to the Universal Suffrages of the Church con
In admitting to our communion those whom we esteem unbaptized, we are accused of a presumptuous departure from the sentiments of all parties and denominations throughout the Christian world, who, however they may have differed upon other subjects, have unanimously concurred in considering baptism as a necessary preliminary to communion.t
"It must, I think, be acknowledged," says Mr. Booth, "even by our brethren themselves, that we have as good a warrant for omitting an essential branch of an ordinance, or to reverse the order in which the constituent parts of an ordinance were originally administered, as we have to lay aside a divine institution, or to change the order in which two different appointments were first fixed. And if so, were a reformed and converted Catholic, still retaining the popish error of communion in one kind only, desirous of having fellowship with our brethren at the Lord's table, they must, if they would act consistently, on their present hypothesis, admit him to partake of the bread, though, from a principle of conscience, he absolutely refused the wine in that sacred institution."-Booth's Apology, p. 51.
This charge is urged with much declamatory vehemence by Mr. Booth, in his Apology :-"A sentiment so peculiar, and a conduct so uncommon," he says, "in regard to this institution, ought to be well supported by the testimony of the Holy Ghost. For, were all the Christian churches now in the world asked, except those few who plead for free communion, whether they thought it lawful to admit unbaptized believers to fellowship at the Lord's table, there is reason to believe they would readily unite in the declaration of Paul, We have no such custom, neither the churches of God that were before us. Yes, considering the novelty of their sentiments and conduct, and what a contradiction they are to the faith and order of the whole Christian church; considering that it never was
The first remark which occurs on this mode of reasoning is, that it is merely an argumentum ad verecundiam,—an attempt to overawe by the weight of authority, without pretending to enter into the merits of the controversy. It assumes for its basis the impossibility of the universal prevalence of error, which if it be once admitted, all hopes of extending the boundaries of knowledge must be relinquished. My next observation is, that it comes with peculiar infelicity from the members of a sect who, upon a subject of much greater moment, have presumed to relinquish the precedent, and arraign the practice of the whole Christian world, as far at least as they have been exhibited in these later ages.
"Quis tulerit Gracchos, de seditione querentes ?"
After setting an example of revolt, it is too late for them to inculcate the duty of submission.
The question of the necessary dependence of communion on baptism being of no practical moment whatever in any other circumstances than our own, it is not to be wondered at if it has never been subjected to scrutiny; since cases of conscience, among which this inquiry may be classed, are rarely if ever investigated until circumstances occur which render their discussion necessary. But as infant-sprinkling is valid in the esteem of all but the Baptists, and there is no pretence for considering the latter as unbaptized, it is not easy to conceive what motive could exist for making it an object of serious attention. That crude and erroneous conceptions should prevail upon questions the decision of which could have no influence on practice, will not surprise those who reflect that truth has been usually elicited by controversy, and that on subjects of too great importance to be entirely overlooked, opinions have prevailed to a great extent which are now universally exploded. Though the employment of coercion in the affairs of conscience is equally repugnant to the dictates of reason and of Scripture, it was for ages successively resorted to by every party in its turn; nor was it till towards the close of the seventeenth century that the principle of toleration was established on a broad and scientific basis, by the immortal writings of Milton and Locke. These reflections are obvious; but there are others which tend more immediately to annihilate the objection under consideration. It is well known that from a very early period the most extravagant notions prevailed in the Church with respect to the efficacy of baptism, and its absolute necessity in order to attain salvation. The descent of the human mind from the spirit to the letter, from what is vital and intellectual to what is ritual and external in religion, is the true source of idolatry and superstition in all the multifarious forms they have assumed; and as it began early to corrupt the religion of nature, or, more properly, of patriarchal tradition, so it soon obscured the lustre, and destroyed the simplicity of the
disputed, as far as I can learn, prior to the sixteenth century, by orthodox or heterodox, by Papist or Protestant, whether unbaptized believers should be admitted to the Lord's table, they all agreeing in the contrary practice, however much they differed in matters of equal importance; it may be reasonably expected, and it is by us justly demanded, that the truth of their sentiment, and the rectitude of their conduct, should be proved, fully proved, from the records of inspiration."— Booth's Apology, p. 43.
Christian institute. In proportion as genuine devotion declined, the love of pomp and ceremony increased; the few and simple rites of Christianity were extolled beyond all reasonable bounds; new ones were invented, to which mysterious meanings were attached, till the religion of the New Testament became, in process of time, as insupportable a yoke as the Mosaic law. The first effects of this spirit are discernible in the ideas entertained of the ordinance so closely connected with the subject of the present treatise. From an erroneous interpretation of the figurative language of a few passages in Scripture, in which the sign is identified with the thing signified, very similar to the mistake which afterward led to transubstantiation, it was universally supposed that baptism was invariably accompanied with a supernatural effect, which totally changed the state and character of the candidate, and constituted him a child of God and an heir of the kingdom of heaven. Hence it was almost constantly denoted by the terms illumination, regeneration, and others, expressive of the highest operations of the Spirit; and as it was believed to obtain the plenary remission of all past sins, it was often, in order to ensure that benefit, purposely deferred to the latest period of life. Thus Eusebius informs us that the Emperor Constantine, "finding his end fast approaching, judged it a fit season for purifying himself from his offences, and cleansing his soul from that guilt which in common with other mortals he had contracted, which he believed was to be effected by the power of mysterious words, and the saving laver." "This," said he, addressing the surrounding bishops, "is the period I have so long hoped and prayed for, the period of obtaining the salvation of God." Passing with the utmost rapidity through the preparatory stage, that of a catechumen, he hastened to what he regarded as his consummation; and no sooner was the ceremony completed, than he arrayed himself in white garments, and laid aside the imperial purple, in token of his bidding adieu to all secular concerns. * We have here a fair specimen of the sentiments which were universally adopted upon this subject in ancient times. Even Justin Martyr, who flourished about the middle of the second century, confounds baptism with regeneration. "Whoever," says he, "believe the things which are affirmed by us to be true, and promise to live accordingly, are afterward conducted to a place where there is water, and are regenerated by the same method of regeneration which we have experienced." Theophilus, a contemporary writer, and the sixth bishop of Antioch, holds the same language. Tertullian, the earliest and most learned of the Latin fathers, exclaims, with rapture, "O happy sacrament, by which, being washed from the former sins of our blindness, we are delivered unto eternal life." And agreeable to the fantastic style of imagery which characterizes his writings, he appears to be particularly delighted with denominating Christians little fishes, who are born in water, and are safe only in that element. Were we to attempt accurately to trace the progress of these opinions in the first ages, and adequately to represent the extent of their prevalence,
† Apol. p. 159, Ed. 1651.
* Eusebius in Vita Constantini, lib. iv. c. 61, 02.